Trump dumps Obama gas regulations

Trump's EPA will settle for a tenth of the carbon-dioxide reductions Obama set as a goal in 2015

 President Trump is moving to scale back ambitious goals for reducing carbon-dioxide emissions set by President Obama in 2015. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

President Trump is moving to scale back ambitious goals for reducing carbon-dioxide emissions set by President Obama in 2015. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

President Trump is telling power plants to step on the gas — with coal and other fossil fuels causing increases in so-called greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

The Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency made a proposal Tuesday to severely scale back ambitious goals for reducing carbon-dioxide emissions set by the Obama administration in 2015.

According to Politico, the proposal "would give states far more leeway to meet more modest climate goals — or even to opt out of the program entirely." It would also "trim less than one-tenth of the carbon-dioxide emissions from the power sector as the Obama EPA's version."

Called the Affordable Clean Energy rule, it would in effect repeal the Obama administration's 2015 Clean Power Plan, which the Trump administration says "exceeded the EPA's authority" and has never been implemented after being stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Illinois's EPA said it's still studying the ramifications. "The Illinois EPA has not had the opportunity to review the Affordable Clean Energy plan announced today by the U.S. EPA," said IEPA spokeswoman Kim Biggs. She said the agency had taken part in an informational conference call Tuesday, but "will need time to thoroughly review the proposal."

The Sierra Club's Illinois Chapter put out a statement calling on Illinois to "step up" in the face of the weakened regulations, saying, "Since the Clean Power Plan was proposed in 2015, hundreds of businesses and organizations and tens of thousands of Illinoisans have asked Gov. Rauner to commit to a carbon reduction plan, but Rauner has never responded."

It cited Rauner's support for Trump's business deregulation, which the governor repeated last week at a campaign rally at the State Fair.

"Donald Trump’s decision to opt out of reducing carbon pollution is unlawful, immoral, and threatens to opt America out of the global clean energy economy," said Illinois Sierra Club Director Jack Darin. "Illinois must step up to object to this plan, and set bold clean energy and climate goals to protect our health and bring clean energy jobs to our communities."

Darin added that "instead of rallying with coal barons to cheer on Trump’s rollbacks, Bruce Rauner should listen to the Illinois residents, businesses, and lawmakers urging him to make it clear that clean energy is Illinois’s future."

Instead of rallying with coal barons to cheer on Trump’s rollbacks, Bruce Rauner should listen to the Illinois residents, businesses, and lawmakers urging him to make it clear that clean energy is Illinois’s future.
— Illinois Sierra Club Director Jack Darin

Rauner was quoted at a recent meeting with Illinois coal executives as saying: "I heard some of the comments earlier about how we have to get bipartisan agreement. My own view is that's probably not going to happen. I don't know that it's going to be bipartisan. Unfortunately, the Democrats have made it a partisan issue to have war against traditional energy sources in America, and it almost defines the Democratic Party these days.

"In my view," he added, "I'm not here to do a political rally, but in my view, we've got to get folks who are clearly pro-energy development, pro-traditional energy, as well as other sources too are fine, but let's have a level playing field. Let's get coal rolling."

"The interesting story here to me is Rauner's flip-flop," said Illinois Sierra Club Deputy Director Kady McFadden. She said that three days after that meeting with coal executives, he touted the Future Energy Jobs Act. "He's been silent on energy for so long and now he can't pick a lane."

The EPA published its proposed regulations Tuesday, opening a 60-day period for public comment, as it aims to adopt the ACE rule next year.

According to the EPA, it was arrived at following an executive order from President Trump to "review burdensome regulations."

"EPA has an important role when it comes to addressing the CO2 from our nation’s power plants,” said Bill Wehrum, assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation. “The ACE rule would fulfill this role in a manner consistent with the structure of the Clean Air Act while being equally respectful of its bounds."

Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, said the nation was already approaching the goals for reducing emissions set by Obama in 2015. "By attempting to roll back the Clean Power Plan and replacing it with this weak strawman, the Trump administration is putting the safety of our communities at risk and making it clear that it has no intention of safeguarding people from the very real, immediate dangers of climate change," she wrote on the Sierra Club website.

The League of Conservation Voters joined in criticizing the proposal.

"The Trump administration is pulling back all while we witness historic, out-of-control wildfires; record-breaking temperatures; massive Arctic ice melt; and devastating storms," wrote Gene Karpinski, the group's president, in a letter to supporters.

With heat waves in Japan, Europe, and Canada, and wildfires in California, Sweden, and Greece, as well as extremes in flooding and drought felt around the world, 2018 is already being called the year climate change was really felt worldwide.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that 2018 is shaping up to be the fourth-hottest year on record for average global temperature — trailing only the last three years — and that 17 of the 18 hottest years on record have been recorded since 2001.

"It’s not a wake-up call anymore,” said Cynthia Rosenzweig, who runs the climate impacts group at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. She told the Times: “It’s now absolutely happening to millions of people around the world."

On Monday, the Illinois Sierra Club sought to join with Friends of the Chicago River in a suit filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan charging that the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago has been violating rules on water usage and on minimizing damage to fish and other wildlife.

"For years, Trump’s tower on the Chicago River has been violating the Clean Water Act," Darin said. "It’s disappointing that the Rauner administration turned a blind eye to these violations for years, but we are now hopeful that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We will work with the attorney general to ensure that justice is served and the Chicago River is fully protected."